Not able to find a voyage by Somersetshire from India to UK just before the start of WW2



I have just been looking at your web page and noticed your information about the troop ship the Somersetshire.  I am in the rocess of compiling my Mother's family tree (with great dfficulty), My mother was born in India and came to the UK with her mother and her stepfather who was a british soldier.  I am almost
certain that my mother arrived in the UK just before the start of the second world war (1939) and she insists that she arrived on the Somersetshire possibly into Southampton?  Is it possible that this ship did sail into England around this time and could you tell me where I may be able to find more infrmation?

If you are not able to help, it only remains for me to thank you for taking the time to read my e mail.

Kind regards
Julie jaques


I am not able to find a voyage by Somersetshire from India to UK just before the start of WW2.

Here are some details of the ship.

*The '/Somersetshire/'*
Built by: Harland & Wolff, Belfast
Launched: 1921.
Origial name:
Original owner: Chartered to The Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.
Gross tonnage: 7,450
Engines: -
Capable speed: -
1927. Convered to a troopship with accommodation for 1,300
1939. She was requisitioned and converted into HM Hospital
In 1942 she was torpedoed in the Mediterranean but managed
to limp to
1948. She was decommissioned.
1953. She briefly returned to trooping but was broken up
in 1954.
        the Somersetshire

The 'Somersetshire' mainly trooped to the Far East and
East Africa but
was used on a few occasions for Egypt and the Middle East.
She has been included here because most of us will have
sung that song
where she is mentioned.  The one that starts:
"We're leaving Khartoum by the light of the moon".   I bet
you have all
sung it in the NAAFI.

Here is a brief history of /Somersetshire/ as a hospital hip, and then converted to a passenger ship.

Name HMHS /Somersetshire/
Type: Hospital ship
Tonnage 9,716 tons
Completed 1921 - Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast
Owner Bibby Brothers & Co, Liverpool
Homeport Liverpool
Date of attack 7 Apr 1942 Nationality:      British

Fate Damaged by U-453 (Egon Reiner von Schlippenbach)
Position 32.13N, 26.34E - Grid CO 6896
Complement 187 (7 dead and 180 survivors).
Route Alexandria - Tobruk
Cargo None

Completed in June 1921 as motor merchant
/Somersetshire /for Bibby Brothers & Co, Liverpool.
1927 converted to a troopship with accommodation for
1300 troops. In October 1927 the ship sailed to
China and from January to May 1928 she transported
troops to Karachi and was laid up in Dartmouth
thereafter. During another voyage to China in 1931,
influenza broke out which affected 300 person but
fortunately there were no deaths. In September 1939,
/Somersetshire /was requisitioned and converted into
HM Hospital Ship No.25 with 507 beds, 118 medical
staff and 171 crew members. She participated in the
withdrawal from Narvik in April 1940 and on 6 Dec,
1940, was bombarded from shore as her launches
brought of the wounded at Tobruk. In February 1941,
the ship joined her sistership HMHS/ Dorsetshire /in
evacuating the wounded from the besieged Tobruk,
before operating from the Red Sea to South Africa,
Australia and New Zealand repatriating wounded

  From 1944 to 1946, /Somersetshire /sailed all over the
world as a hospital ship and finishing up in the
Pacific. In February 1948, the ship was
decommissioned and rebuilt until November by Harland
& Wolff to a passenger ship with accommodation for
550 passengers. In 1953, the ship briefly returned
to trooping to East Africa during the Mau Mau
troubles and in March 1954 was broken up by Thos. W.
Ward in Barrow-in-Furness.

Notes on loss At 12.57 hours on 7 Apr, 1942, U-453
fired a spread of four torpedoes at a steamer of
10.000 grt and heard three detonations after 47
seconds. HMHS /Somersetshire/ was not recognized as a
hospital ship by the U-boat. The ship, which was
carrying no patients, was hit on the starboard side
forward and settled by the head with a list. Seven
lives were lost. 114 crew members, 64 medical staff
members and two stewardesses abandoned ship in 13
lifeboats. The crew later reboarded her and managed
to reach Alexandria on the port engine and assisted
by tugs. The remaining survivors were picked up by a
Greek destroyer.

Best wishes,


back to letters index


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved